Opinion: Keep Your Cool Humility

Something we don’t talk and write about much: personal pride when we face difficult situations. A situation that still puzzles me is a startup with a good idea and strong funding. The product is a hardware communication niche device. But they’re digital marketing was weak. The CEO (call him David) decided to bring in an outsider (call him Daniel) to balance strong technical and weak marketing. But that decision did not go well with the MARCOM manager. Essentially he was replacing a loyal employee with an outsider. Problem is, nobody told the MARCOM manager (call him Jason) of the desire to essentially replace him with an outside more capable specialist.

Arrogance Leads to Anxiety

Jason was a loyal friend of David and his startup staff. They all worked in a previous startup which did not succeed. When it came to trade shows and paper brochures Jason was reliable. He also worked well with the technical staff when it came to building trade show demos. Since Jason was not as technical as Daniel, he would simply leave the technical explaining to the staff. The status-quo between Jason and the startup was nice. But it also prevented them all from getting into digital marketing. While most of them realized the problem, Jason’s close relationship with David (CEO) prevented everyone form “saying or doing something about it”.

Expected: Digital Marketing Eclipsed Traditional Work

Once Daniel started, even without Jason’s help, the results were as expected. While a press release which Jason wrote would bring only a few clicks to the site. Daniel was bringing hundreds. While Jason was tweeting once a week, Daniel was at it all day long. Eventually Jason was fed up, he gave David enough complaints to essentially terminate Daniel. While David was very unhappy, his senior staff wanted to keep the status-quo and keep the group integrity. This means they will have to give up on digital transformation for now.

Moral of the Story

While it seems like the transformation of MARCOM can be done with outsourced services, this is not always true. This situation I hear about time and time again. Arrogant traditional workers are highly offended by the new digital workers. Essentially it shows them how much the work has changed. When you are close to the work and see results quickly, you realize how much you need to get into the current work. I look at new technology workers as messengers. They come with a message “the world has changed”. They come with specific details “digital content is not just paper brochures on the iPhone screen”. They are also able to expand reach thousands of times.

Personal Takeaway: CxOs Want Digital Everything, but with teams which were not brought up to be digital this effort usually fails. When a none-transformable company buys outside services, it essentially stays the same. Digital transformation may turn out like dieting and exercise, if you don’t like it, you will not make it a daily habit. If you are welcoming an “digital transformer” into your group, be humble and try to learn. Adopting a new work style is difficult and does not work every time. Jason was arrogant toward Daniel and David was a bystander. Keep your eyes on the interactions between the staff.

Characters: Jason: old traditional MARCOM manager; Daniel: older digital marketing manager; David: startup CEO

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